My mother raised me well. Well, to be more precise, my mother raised me effectively.
For instance, I was always expected to hold the church door open for the old ladies trudging slowly in. If I claimed to have a fever before school, I was forced to produce vomit, or else. And I had to eat my canned peaches before I left the table, even though, to my boyish imagination, that felt like slurping down a plate of giant Peruvian slugs.
Most importantly, my mother raised me to never talk about religion, politics, the bedroom or the bathroom in public. Of course, I have blatantly neglected that advice, which is why I make the big bucks by forcing my 500-700-word opinions on all of you every week.
However, looking back, I should have listened to that last bit of advice. Ours is a world more and more interested in being clever, instead of wise, and heaven knows I’ve added a few paragraphs to that snarky pile.
In fact, y’all should have listened to our collective mothers’ advice. We should be keeping more of our opinions to ourselves. Anyone who took a stroll around Facebook over the last few weeks was beaten over the head with opinion (“Manti T’eo’s relationship status reads ‘it’s complicated’”) after opinion (“Barack HUSSEIN Obama will have to pry this AK-47 from my cold, dead fingers”) after opinion (“everyone was cheating when Lance did it #livestrong #mediaismean”) after opinion (“ohmygosh ohmygosh Did you SEE Les Mis it was so good Hugh Jackman is so dreamy I dreamed a dream RED!”).
But I don’t want this to be just another column about folks oversharing personal details on social media. This isn’t, after all, 2007. No, I’m writing about a peculiar and vicious firebrand of opinionating which, if ignited, will engulf the world of the Internet and consume all of us, licking the flesh off our bones with the acerbic tongues of pigheaded paragraph-ists and blinders-on bloggers.
Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about child-rearing.
I only bring this up because, in the last week, I’ve started raising a child of my own. His name is Roger, and he just moved into our spare room. He’s well behaved, though within the space of a week, he’s managed to teach me a lot of very new and graphic things about bodily orifices and the liquids which come out of them.
Anyway, people (specifically — and I know I’ll get crucified for this — female people) LOVE giving us their opinions on babies, raising children, birthing children, etc.
And it’s great. We live in a very family-centric culture, which means everybody has a kid, or has raised a kid, or acts like a kid (shout-out to my brothers!), and we’ve heard advice from every single one of them. Here are a few excerpts of the unsolicited advice we’ve received:
“Is he coughing? Here!” (reaches into bag) “Rub this catfish and saffron oil on his chest!”
“Epidural, huh? I guess that’s fine. Some mothers just can’t do it the way God wanted them to.”
“My mother raised us without ever showing us any affection.” (pauses to scratch fresh prison tattoo) “It worked out perfectly for us.”
“Natural birth, huh? Well, you know. I guess there’s some validity to being a crazy, attention-starved idiot.”
“Doctors don’t know anything. The day you get him home, take him outside, roll him in the dirt and feed him a bottle of maple syrup. Then, invite all the grimy little germ-riddled neighbor kids over and let them pass him around like a football.”
“Why wouldn’t you have him in a bathtub? Turtles do it.”
And so on. Every time one of these helpful folk talks about disciplining, or circumcision, or onesies-vs.-gowns, or curing colic with heaven-knows-what (“but it’s natural, so you know it’s safe!”), we have to fight the urge to hide Roger inside our coat and start backing away slowly.
The fact is children are all different, just like families are all different. The same strategies don’t work unilaterally, unless those strategies involve love, quality time and a whole lot of sanitary wipes.
So, please, all you very well-intentioned folk with your lavender ointments and Swedish burping techniques and R-rated birth stories, please take my mother’s advice. We love you very much, but we’ve got it.